Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Last Supper

So much happens at the Holy Thursday liturgy. We struggle to contemplate it all. First there is the actual institution of the Eucharist. Pope Benedict writes something interesting on that and Scott Hahn has been highlighting it as well. 
If the Eucharist that Jesus instituted was just a meal, then Calvary was just a Roman execution. But if Jesus instituted the Eucharist to be the Passover of the New Covenant, then it had to involve both sacrifice and communion, as did the Old Covenant Passover,” he writes.
The words of institution show that Jesus established the Eucharist as the sacrifice of the New Covenant,” he continues. “As such, the Eucharist transformed Calvary from a Roman execution to a holy sacrifice — the consummation of his self-offering that was initiated in the Upper Room. Thus, he didn’t lose his life on Good Friday, since he had already given it — in loving sacrifice — on Holy Thursday. Jesus was not the hapless victim of Roman injustice and violence, but rather the willing victim of divine love and mercy.
That is the fact that the crucifixion makes no sense without the last supper. Really the death of Jesus was simply the completion of the Holy Thursday liturgy. That is where He gave us a new covenant. Good Friday is when Jesus paid the price that covenant demanded. 

Then we have the washing of the feet. An amazing object lesson. The teacher and master serves us in a most humiliating and a most personal way. Peter struggles to get it. So do we. How can we understand Jesus as the Lord of heaven and earth and also understand Him as our servant? Jesus' answer? Do it. When you actually serve those who are beneath you in some way then you will get it. Yet how often do we do it? 

Peter grasps the humiliation of being washed. We are not just dirty but we are unable to clean ourselves. We are like a child or a handicapped person who can't wash himself. Jesus basically says this is the only way it can work. You need to get clean and you can't clean yourself. He not talking about a one time cleaning either. That would correspond to baptism. This is constant, regular cleaning. We need that to. We get that in confession. Sacramental confession is important but also a personal daily examination of conscience. Even daily is just a minimum. If you fall into sin don't wait. Just like if your child fell into the mud you would not wait until their regular wash.

Then John records for us a long discourse at the last supper. It starts in John 13 and included John 14, 15, 16 and 17. Jesus knows the next few days are going to be hard. They will be hard for Him obviously but He does not forget His disciples. He wants to prepare them. They are mostly confused. He tells them the sins they are going to commit. Judas' betrayal is predicted. Peter's denials. The abandonment of the rest of the disciples. He tells them not to prevent them from sinning but to keep them from despair. Again it is humiliating. Jesus in His most trying hour gets zero help from the disciples but even then He has to be the helper.

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